All attention turned to the Capitol as Crossover rapidly approaches. For this reason, our team spent less time traversing the state and more time engaging in the internal conflict under the Gold Dome. This doesn’t mean we were working less (Cole and I both pulled into our driveways around midnight last night), but the volume of our activities will not be fully reflected in this week’s report.
I rarely use this wrap up to include an “ask,” but, if you’d be willing to consider donating to help us finish this session strong, we would greatly appreciate the support. Any amount – $25, $50, $100, or more – can make a big difference.
Here’s the headline for this week: SB 57, a dangerous expansion of gambling (including horse racing, what would essentially be “mini casinos,” and sports betting) that would harm our state, failed on Thursday; and it failed in part because you took the time to reach out to your legislators and tell them how you felt. We want you to share in our excitement!
In the past few years, many have opted for a jaded view of our political system, and this prompted them to withdraw into a dejected, disillusioned silence – convinced that their voice doesn’t matter. THAT IS FALSE, and the results on Thursday showed a resounding triumph for pro-family voices over the well-funded machine of the gambling industry.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming… 🙂
On Monday, I had the opportunity to offer testimony endorsing the “Freedom to Work Act” by Senator Walker (Perry), SB 195, in the Senate Veterans, Military, & Homeland Security committee. This bill enhances opportunities for employment for many professionals moving to Georgia, by allowing those with work history and/or licensing in good standing from other states to get an expedited business license to begin offering their services in Georgia.
Later that day we offered testimony to support SB 182, which would raise the penalties and strengthen the definitions for “Doxxing” – that is, using the internet or social media platforms to publish private information about individuals to harass or intimidate them. The advent of social media has brought increased challenges, and this is a step that will protect the vulnerable and give law enforcement the tools to prosecute those who hide behind a screen to destroy the lives of others.
On Tuesday, HB 129 by Rep Soo Hong (Lawrenceville) was being heard in the Children and Families Committee, and we were there to offer testimony in support of this legislation, which would expand the eligibility for the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program to expecting moms. This is one of the Governor’s priorities this session, and is another step on the path to building a culture that values unborn human life!
Director of Advocacy, Taylor Hawkins, with Rep. Soo Hong
Later on, the Senate Education Committee heard one of our top priorities – SB 233, the “Georgia Promise Scholarships Act” and we offered testimony supporting the bill and debunking the myths around this issue. This bill, by Senator Greg Dolezal (Forsyth), radically expands school choice in Georgia through the “money follows the child” principle, enabling the vast majority of parents in the state to choose the very best educational environment for their children. It is a game-changer for Georgia children, and ensures the focus of education funding is the students, not the systems! We sent out an action alert that day, which hundreds of you took advantage of to make your voice heard on the issue. To read that alert and know more about the bill, CLICK HERE. 233 passed out of committee and is on the agenda to hit the full Senate Floor for a vote on Monday.
At the end of the day, I had the opportunity with our FCBA Director Mark Gonsalves and our Administrative Services Manager Suzanne Hawkins (my sister) to attend the Lt Governor’s reception for African American History Month. It was an excellent celebration of culture and history, and of the key role Georgia played in the Civil Rights movement.
On Wednesday, the day was a full one, seeking to mitigate the effects of bad bills and strengthen the efforts around the conservative legislation that needs to get done in our state. We continue to work tirelessly on Frontline’s #1 priority – banning the castration, sterilization, and irreversible damage to children of so-called “gender-affirming” treatments and surgeries. Our Director of Frontline Policy Council, Scott McInnis, penned an appeal to pastors and ministry leaders, exhorting pastors and ministry leaders across our state to speak out on this issue. You can read that article by clicking here.
Also on Wednesday, our Church Ambassador Network was back at the capitol! It was an honor to have CAN meetings with Representative Glaize (Democrat) and Representative Cox (Republican) this week. We had the opportunity to read scripture together and lift up prayers for each of them. God is on the move at our Gold Dome! Pastors see the value in our Church Ambassador Network meetings as more and more are attending from around the state.
(Top) L to R: Pastor Mike Keaton, Director of Christian Engagement, Sam Thomas, Rep. Glaize, Director of Council, Scott McInnis, and Pastor Scott Barber.
(Bottom) L to R: Pastor Mike Keaton, Director of Council, Scott McInnis, Director of Christian Engagement, Sam Thomas, Pastor Scott Barber, and Rep. Cox
Thursday was the last full legislative day before “Crossover Day” (Monday), the deadline for a bill to pass one Chamber and continue through the process in the normal way. Cole and I arrived at the Capitol before 8am, stayed until roughly 10pm, and then did a wrap-up dinner where we were still communicating with our legislative allies. (Please note as you pray for your legislators – while it is easy to criticize “politicians,” these leaders have jobs and families. It is not an easy and cushy gig to be in the Georgia General Assembly, and many of our allies, those going above and beyond to fight for what is right, take extra time to move the needle for values.)
There were several important bills on the agenda, and we sent out This Action Alert at the beginning of the day to encourage our supporters to be vocal about these significant issues – Gambling, school choice, protecting kids, and election integrity.
SB 57 would have radically expanded gambling in our state, and led to bankruptcies, broken families, and many other negative effects. As I said in the opening, by God’s grace, and with your help, this bill failed! I must also recognize the strong stand one man was willing to make. Senator Marty Harbin, a very good friend of mine who has honored God with his time at the Capitol, took the well to speak against the bill. He did so knowing that it would anger many of his colleagues, that he’d face ridicule, and that such a stance would not be “popular.”
It was a noble effort – an example of doing the right thing regardless of the outcome, and at the end of the debate on the issue, the bill failed 19-37! We appreciate the efforts of Senator Setzler, Senator Tillery, and others who spoke and voted their conscience. We also are so grateful for allies like Mike Griffin (Public Affairs Representative, GA Baptist Mission Board), in this fight.
Director of Advocacy, Taylor Hawkins, President of Frontline, Cole Muzio with Sen. Marty Harbin, and Mike Griffin
The rest of the day was largely spent working behind the scenes to advance our cause – especially on the issue of gender reassignment for minors, where we are working to strengthen legislation currently moving. Along the way, we did have other supported bills pass, including SB 222 by Senator Max Burns (Sylvania), a bill to protect our election systems from the undue influence of “Zuckerbucks” – outside money pouring in to affect election outcomes, and SB 92 by Senator Randy Robertson (Cataula), to reign in out-of-control DAs by instituting a prosecutorial oversight commission, which can ensure that the law is upheld and political manifestos don’t keep victims from getting the justice they deserve.
On Monday, there are more opportunities to win for families. We will send more alerts to you with follow up information, but we are excited to fight for SB 147 – expanding educational opportunities, SB 182 – punishing doxxing, SB 195 – the Freedom to Work Act, SB 233 – Georgia Promise Scholarships Act, and against SR 140 & SB 172 to legalize Sports Betting. In the House, we are looking to see HB 188 – the Georgia Dangerous Sexual Predator Prevention Act, HB 212 – expanding opportunities for small businesses, HB 556 – the Pregnancy Protection act, and several others come to the floor for a vote, and we are opposed to HB 380, the house version of legalizing sports betting.
Please especially pray for our efforts on SB 140. This legislation must be fixed, strengthened, and improved. Protecting kids from a radical and barbaric agenda should not be work done with haste. Language matters. Getting this right matters. Being bold matters. We are working with some great people to get this done. Pray for hearts to be softened and wills to be bent toward Him, not political expediency.
In closing, I’ll leave you with several verses that encouraged me this morning from Psalm 3. David is suffering the afflictions of the wicked, and is feeling oppressed because of their numbers and strength. But he knows that ultimately, God is in control, He will defend us, and the salvation and blessing of His people belongs to the Lord: “LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me…But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; My glory, and the lifter up of mine head…Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: Thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.”
Psalm 3:1, 3
Relying on Him,
Director of Advocacy
HB 54 – Expansion of the Student Scholarships enabling private education – In committee: Ways & Means
HB 129 – Expanding eligibility of TANF benefits for pregnant women – Passed Senate committee, awaiting Senate floor vote
HB 162 – 2022 Income tax refund – Passed the House
HB 188 – Georgia Dangerous Sexual Predator Prevention Act – Passed committee, awaiting floor vote
HB 212 – Deregulating small businesses – Passed committee, awaiting floor vote
HB 217 – Ban cockfighting – In Committee: Judiciary Non-Civil
HB 229 – Enabling the recall of radical, lawless District Attorneys or Solicitors General – In Committee: Judiciary Non-Civil
HB 231 – Creating the Prosecuting Attorneys Oversight Commission to discipline lawless DA’s – Passed committee, awaiting floor vote
HB 338 – Student Technology Protection Act – Passed the House, In Senate Education Committee
HB 342 – Regulating the predatory practices of Title pawn agencies – In Committee: Banks and Banking
HB 556 – Pregnancy Protection Act – Passed committee, awaiting floor vote
SB 1 – Removing the *repealer of the Covid vaccine passport ban in Georgia – Passed Senate, in House Committee: Public Health
SB 2 – Removing the *repealer on business immunities from liability claims regarding COVID-19 – In Committee: Judiciary
SB 3 – “Reducing Barriers to State Employment Act of 2023” – Passed Senate, In Committee: Governmental Affairs
SB 36 – Raising penalties for buying and selling human beings – Passed Senate, In Committee: Judiciary Non-Civil
SB 42 – Further incentivize posting of the Human Trafficking Hotline info – Passed Senate, In Committee: Judiciary Non-Civil
SB 44 – Raising the penalties for crimes with a weapon & enticing minors to join a gang and/or commit crimes – Passed Senate, In Committee: Judiciary Non-Civil
SB 69 – Honor Clarence Thomas with a capitol grounds statue – Passed Senate, In Committee: Special Rules
SB 93 – Banning TikTok on Gov’t devices – Passed Senate, in House Public Safety Committee
SB 97 – Georgia Cyber Command Division under GEMA to monitor cyber threats – Passed committee, awaiting floor vote
SB 131 – Foster Care reform; simplification of hearing procedure – Passed Senate
SB 133 – Foster Care reform; Uniform process to address custody of children – Passed Senate
SB 134 – Foster Care reform; makes it easier for children to testify in proceedings – Passed Committee; awaiting floor vote
SB 135 – Foster Care reform; establishes standards for admissibility and authenticity of genetic testing – Passed Senate
SB 222 – Prohibition on outside money influencing elections – Passed Senate
SB 230 – Foster Care Reform: Update to the Foster Care Bill of Rights – Passed committee, awaiting floor vote